Explore the best places to visit near Whitby across the North York Moors. Plan the activities ahead of time so you can enjoy the perfect North Yorkshire holiday.
The North York Moors is a really special place – unique in that it is situated close to the coast. It enjoys an unbeatable combination of sea views, dramatic coastline alongside vast heather moorland and rolling hills inland.
Unsurprisingly, the North Yorks Moors National Park offers a huge range of activities for nature and outdoor-lovers to enjoy. From climbing to cycling, walking to fishing and horse-riding to wildlife-watching. Adventurous-types can enjoy treetop adventures, bushcraft workshops, canoeing, mountaineering and more. Making base in our favourite seaside town it’s easy to visit places near Whitby during your North Yorkshire staycation.
In this article, we’re exploring all the best places to visit near Whitby including Goathland, Dalby Forest, Scarborough, Sandsend, Malton, Pickering, Glaisdale, Saltwick Bay, Robin Hood’s Bay, Staithes, Runswick Bay, Filey, and many more.
Places to visit near Whitby
Fans of TV’s Heartbeat will recognise the moorland village of Goathland as ‘Aidensfield’. The quaint but petty-crime ridden village patrolled by PC Rowan and friends. But that’s not the only claim to fame this pretty unassuming village enjoys. Its train station also doubled up as Hogsmeade Station in the cult Harry Potter films! As you can imagine, its location makes it a fantastic place for walkers. You can follow the ‘Rail Trail’ from Goathland to Grosmont for three and a half miles. Exploring the sites along the way before heading back on the train. Alternatively, take the Mallyan Spout footpath to see the pretty 21-metre high Mallyan Spout waterfall. Other walks include Grosmont to Beck Hole and the longer Ravenscar to Robin Hood’s Bay walk, taking you through some of the North York Moor’s most iconic landscapes.
The southern North Yorkshire Moors is home to Dalby Forest, known for its ‘Rigg and Dale’ landscape which makes it perfect for outdoor adventures. It is here that you will find ‘Go Ape‘ the UK’s favourite Forest Adventure Experience. Choose from two to three hours of treetop fun. Swing across high ropes, bridge crossings, Tarzan swings and zip wires. Or ride a Forest Segway where you will learn to master the segway whilst exploring off the beaten track. Take time also to visit the Dalby Moors Activity Centre where you can enjoy outdoor activities such as paintballing and airsoft along with archery.
One of the UK’s top tourist destinations in its own right. Scarborough is definitely worth a visit whilst exploring the North York Moors. Its award-winning sandy beaches, dramatic coastline and plentiful attractions make it a favourite with couples, friends and families alike. Like the rest of this region, there are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy including Donkey Rides along the beach or a visit to the famous Scarborough Fair, however, there is plenty to do indoors too. Why not visit the Sealife Sanctuary to get up close and personal to sharks, rays, penguins and more. Alternatively, take a walk up to 2500-year-old Scarborough Castle, perched on a hill overlooking the sea. On a nice day, you can even pack a picnic and enjoy a spot of lunch overlooking the coast. You can also take a trip out to sea onboard the historic ‘Hispaniola’ which takes visitors on a 15 minute trip around the South Bay. Or if you are looking for something a little faster, enjoy a thrilling speedboat ride around the harbour.
A small but beautiful fishing village close to Whitby, Sandsend is perhaps best known for its miles of sandy beaches. You can walk to Sandsend from Whitby along the coast, as well as into nearby Mulgrave Woods to take a look at the remains of Mulgrave Castle.
Other activities in Sandsend include rock pooling and fossil hunting, whilst history buffs will be interested to see the old coastal railway and alum works. Enthusiasts can follow the trail around the quarries and along the railway with a trail map available from the tourist information centre.
This pretty market town is known as the food capital of Yorkshire and hosts the yearly Food Lovers Festival every May. Each month too, there is a fantastic food market and you can explore all of its famous food heritage on a ‘Made in Malton Food Tour’. The tour will take you to see traditional artisan producers found in and around Talbot Yard, or you can choose to sample the local food yourself in the town’s restaurants and delis.
Malton is also home to the family-friendly Flamingo Land Theme Park and Zoo, the UK’s most visited zoo! Billed as the ‘ultimate’ thrill, the zoo offers a number of ‘zoo-keeper experiences’ such as the Meerkat encounter, Giraffe encounter and ‘animal trainer experience. The theme park meanwhile features exciting roller-coasters, rides and experiences across seven uniquely themed areas.
A busy market town on the edge of the Moors, Pickering is the perfect place to begin a journey along the historic North York Moors Railway. Start with a visit to the Beck Isle history museum to learn all about Pickering’s history or head to Pickering Castle. This 13th-century castle has doubled up as a hunting lodge, holiday home and stud farm for medieval kings throughout the centuries and is now looked after by English Heritage. Then, refuel with a meal at Mulberries Tearoom and Terrace in Pickering Station, before boarding your train to Whitby, stopping at Levisham, Newton Dale Halt, Goathland and Grosmont along the way.
Deep in the beating heart of the North York Moors lies the wonderful village of Glaisdale. Situated on the River Esk this is a place of romantic notoriety. The Beggars Bridge stands as a testament to true love and perseverance. Made famous in the song of the same name by Vin Garbutt. This handsome arch was built in 1619 by Thomas Ferriss. A classic tale of romance, the story goes that a young pauper wished to marry the daughter of a squire. And so made a plan to set sail to make his fortune and ultimately win the hand of his beloved. On the night of his departure, a great food breached the bans of the Esk preventing the lovers from a final meeting. Upon his return to the village, Tom Ferris, now a wealthy merchant built the Beggars Bridge. As a precaution to prevent such an incidence befalling young lovers ever again.
Just a hop, skip and a jump around the rocks from Tate Hill Sands is a seldom visited cove. Saltwick Bay is one of the best kept secret places to visit near Whitby. This rugged natural bay is home to the iconic Black Nab. A rocky outcrop extending into the North Sea notorious in the folklore of sailors and smugglers. It is here that the famous legend of the submerged bells is heard, blowing gently on the breeze.
Saltwick Bay is also a fantastic place to enjoy the summer solstice. And to experience the unique phenomena of the sun rising from and setting into the sea. As it’s so close to Whitby it’s just a short walk at low tide along the beach. Alternatively, a hike across the Cleveland Way from Whitby Abbey makes for a stunning stroll upon the clifftop. Whichever way you decide to go, there is sure to be a sighting on of the infamous shipwrecks such as the SS Rohilla or the MV Creteblock.
Robin Hood’s Bay
Explore the exquisite old-world charm of this ancient smugglers bay. Ramble along cobbled alleyways and stealth through the multitude of yards and gardens. As you make your way from Upper Bay to Lower Bay. Robin Hood’s Bay is famed as a smugglers haven and place of outstanding natural beauty.
Since the heady days of Britain’s great maritime era of the 1700s, the network of secret tunnels have been used to transport illicit goods and plundered bounty from the port to the village. Named not for its connection to the rich-robbing hero of Sherwood Forest, Bay Town, as locals call it is a wonderful village packed with rich cultural history, folklore and mystery. We highly recommend Robin Hood’s Bay Ghost Walk with the award-winning storyteller, Rose Rylands.
It’s hard to imagine a more serene and sublime place to visit near Whitby.
Further up the coast on the northerly edge of the North York Moors lies the sleepy fishing village of Staithes. Home to Captain Cook and Staithes Heritage Centre this charmingly original village sits at the mouth of Staithes Beck. As a traditional maritime hub this small but perfectly formed community boasts a picture postcard aspect. As you walk down the steep hill towards the harbour you’ll slip back in time. Once there, you’ll find the popular public house, The Cod and Lobster. This is an easy place to while away the hours. Whilst enjoying a pint of your favourite tipple and a plate of fresh fish and chips. Each year the Staithes Festival of Arts and Heritage celebrates local custom and culture with a long weekend of exhibitions displayed in the homes and holiday cottages peppered throughout the village.
Just a few miles south of Staithes is the bracing coastal village of Runswick Bay. Known for its award-winning beach and rugged yet picturesque scenery. Walkers will be pleased to learn that the Cleveland Way cuts a path straight through the conurbation. Directly to the beach before swerving south once more along the clifftops. As with many of these ancient fishing communities, there are a handful of excellent local pubs where visitors can take a hearty meal and a refreshing beverage. Many a yarn is spun by the old sailors of these salty boozers. Runswick Bay is an excellent place for watersports offering sea kayaking and Stand-Up Paddleboarding. As with any good beach spot, there’s a great cafe. Enjoy fresh crab sandwiches with a steaming hot cup of Yorkshire tea.
Next on our list of places to visit near Whitby is the bustling town of Filey. Beyond the outer fringes of our catchment area, a few miles south of Scarborough, this is a popular place for tourists to visit. Filey established itself in the memories of the British holidaymaker as one of the popular Butlins Holiday Camps. During the fifties, sixties and seventies Brits flocked to this customer built coastal resort. Thanks to its large beach and long promenade, Filey boasts an authentic seaside experience. One that offers visitors the chance to stretch their legs along the sweeping expanse of the bay.
The discovery of ruins in 1857 at Carr Naze cliff edge suggests that the town was known as the Roman settlement of Portus Felix. As a scheduled monument, the site denotes an important archaeological find – well worth a visit! For the adventurous, Bay Watersports offer activities such as coasteering (also known as tombstoning or cliff diving), kayaking, SUP and raft building team events.
Perhaps best known to walkers of the Cleveland Way, Cloughton Wyke is a charming horseshoe cove between Ravenscar and Scarborough. Just four miles north of Scarborough town centre, the village of Cloughton has two decent pubs. The Blacksmiths Arms and The Red Lion – perfect for an afternoon away from the crowds. Visitors may find cricket or football being played on the local pitches. And for the high flyers, there’s a large conference centre hotel for business trips at Cober Hill.
Away from the coast, next to Pickering, is the next of our places to visit near Whitby. Thornton-le-Dale is an ancient settlement dating back to at least 1086. It’s mentioned in the Domesday Book under the name of Torentune. Since the turn of the 20th century, Thornton Dale has been seducing tourists with its idyllic rural charm and picture-postcard appearance. Voted in 1907 as Yorkshire’s prettiest village, Thornton-le-Dale has been wooing tourists ever since. Thanks in part to the Beck Isle, a well known thatched cottage. Achieving fame appearing on the cover of calendars and chocolate boxes. Thornton Beck runs directly past the front of this 17th-century building. Adding to the impressive aspect of this widely photographed icon.
Located on the border of the North York Moors National Park is the village of Cropton. This quirky little place is just three miles north-west of Pickering. Cropton, from the Old English crop tun, means hill with a settlement or mound with a farmstead. The village has a handsome aspect. There is an ancient Motte and Bailey castle, known as Round Hill, which is a protected historical site. The village boasts a popular microbrewery, The Great Yorkshire Brewery, which is situated to the rear of the New Inn on the edge of the village.
Referenced in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Chirchebi, this ancient market town is located midway between Pickering and Helmsley. Modern-day Kirkbymoorside is known for its lively wind instrumentalism in the Kirkbymoorside Town Brass Band, production of light aircraft by Slingsby Aviation and anarchist poet, Herbert Read. The town also hosts the popular regional agricultural show, the annual Ryedale Show. Perhaps, most importantly, to earn a mention in a list of places to visit near Whitby, there are two coaching inns of antiquity. The Black Swan and The George and Dragon – both well worth a visit!
This charming market town sits just outside of the North York Moors National Park. Residing at the northerly fringes of North Yorkshire this popular place to visit near Whitby lies on the River Leven. Since 1223 the town has enjoyed a charter to hold fairs, bestowed by Henry III. In the 17th century, The Pack Horse Bridge crossing the Leven was built. As an established commercial centre, there is a lively independent shopping and restaurant scene. So too, there is extensive Georgian architecture throughout the town, adding a dash of character and style. Stokesley Agricultural Show is the largest in northern England, taking place each September. There is also a weekly market on Fridays and a Farmers Market on the first Saturday of the month.
Leaving the moorlands we enter the flatlands. On the cusp of the Vale of Pickering is the traditional market town of Helmsley. This quirky town retains a medieval layout, built up around the crossing of the River Rye and the A170. Further still, the western half is inside the North York Moors National Park. Bondgate is of particular architectural importance, as is the town centre, and has been designated a conservation area. The Earls of Feversham had an ancestral home built at Duncombe Park, overlooking the now ruined Helmsley Castle. The town is a popular meet-up place for bikers. It is also the beginning of the Cleveland Way, a 110mile loop walk to Filey.
The name Great Ayton is a derivative of the Old English, Ea-Tun. tun meaning ‘farm’ and ea meaning ‘river’. Sat beneath Easby Moor at the foot of the Cleveland Hills, Great Ayton is just a few. miles from the coast. Nearby is Roseberry Topping. A distinctively shaped hillock popular with daytrippers. Great Ayton was the boyhood home of Captain James Cook. The Cook family home was built in 1755 by his father. Cooks’ mother and siblings are buried at All Saints Church. In 1934, the cottage that the young apprentice seaman lived in was dismantled stone by stone to be transported to Melbourne, Australia.
Popular with walkers of the Cleveland Way, this coastal village is just a few miles south of Robin Hood’s Bay. As the terminus of the Lyke Wake Walk, it holds a firm place in local folklore. Ravenscar was once a signal station in Roman times. One in a chain of many along the Yorkshire coast. The village enjoys a curious history as a resort that never was. In the late 19th century, plans were made to create a resort to rival Scarborough. Streets and sewers were laid out but no houses were ever built. Ravenscar was an important place for dyeing during the Alum era of the 1800s. Numerous ruins including a windmill of the Peak Alum Mill remain intact. An impressive National Trust site. Places to visit near Whitby don’t come quirkier than this.
Known as Tunnel as recently as the 1850s this bracing moorland village has a long and vivid history. Grosmont Priory was established in the 12th century. One of only three Grandmontine religious houses in England. The monastery was dissolved in the 16th century under Henry VIII. West of the priory was the crossing place of the River Esk, an ancient structure known as Wade’s Causeway. A forge found at Smithy Holme Wood suggests that ironwork has taken place in the village as early as the 15th century. Later industrialisation led to the creation of the Grosmont Ironworks. Production peaked in around 1870 with approximately 500 men employed producing near 40,000 tonnes of iron. During this time there was built a railway line connecting the village to Whitby. Growth around this line was prolific. Many railway-related buildings here are listed. Including the property that would have been ‘The Tunnel Inn’, from which the original name of the village derives. Grosmont is home to the North York Moors Railway engine shed and is a popular station on the steam railway line.
Just about a mile away from Goathland lies the dizzy heights of Beck Hole. At 70m above sea level, access is via steep roads on either side of the village. Most of the buildings here are listed. Including the famous Birch Hall Inn, the village pub. The settlement dates back to the Middle Ages. Under the name Amerholm, it was set within the Forest of Pickering. Unbelievably, up until 1951, Beck Hole was a stop on the Whitby to Pickering Railway. The station was accessed by a rope-hauled cable until a new deviation line bypassed the incline in 1865. Visit Beck Hole for a crafty pint at the Birch Hall Inn, explore the historic listed buildings, and soak up the views across the moorlands.
Steeped in local legend and folklore, Osmotherley has a rich cultural legacy. As the western terminus of the Lyke Wake Walk, above the village, is a stone marker that denotes the starts of the walk. Legend has it that the name Osmotherley comes from the story of a boy named Oswald or Osmund whose mother went out into the snow but never returned. Anxious, the boy went to look for his mother. He found her dead or dying, frozen in the snow. There he lay beside her, hence, Os-mother-lay. Whatever the truth of the tale, Osmotherley is a pleasant place to visit near Whitby. With its three public houses in. 50m radius you can be sure of a warm welcome.
Dating back to 1158, this is the site of an early Cistercian Priory. A stone turret, sundial and stone pillar remain as ruins as a reminder of this early settlement. Like so many of the religious houses of antiquity, Rosedale Priory was dissolved under Henry VIII in the dissolution of the monasteries. Just a few miles south of Whitby, this is a great place to visit on your trip to the North York Moors. The present-day community benefits from a number of handsome tourist attractions. Since 1871, The Rosedale Show has welcomed tourists and locals alike. As the oldest of its kind in North Yorkshire, this popular event attracts more than 5,000 visitors each year.
This distinctively shaped hill draws crowds from across the region. The half cone shape with a jagged cliff face has been compared to the iconic Matterhorn in the Swiss-Alps. At a smidgen over a thousand metres, this is one of the top 20 highest peaks in the North York Moors. These lofty heights offer sublime views of Captain Cooks Monument at Easby Moor and the nearby Easton Nab.
And it’s cold and it’s wet
And you feel like you’re part of all time
Lyrics from America’s song “Hatrick” from the album of the same name place Roseberry Topping firmly in the imagination and lexicon of history.
Such a wonderful region as the North York Moors has so many natural and historic wonders to explore. It is impossible to list them all. Happily, since there are so many exciting places to visit near Whitby. We’ve covered the best of the towns, villages and attractions to make your stay in the North York Moors a great one. And if you run out of time, you’ll just have to come back again!
Finally, to complete the roundup of our favourite places to visit in the North York Moors is Whitby itself. Starting with the haunting Whitby Abbey, one of the town’s most famous, and striking attractions. Towering above the coast high on the East Side clifftop stands Whitby Abbey. This iconic Benedictine monastery ruin looks particularly striking at night when it is all lit up. It’s easy to understand why it became the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’. It was this gothic inspiration that gave birth to the bi-annual ‘Goth Festival’, usually held in April and October. This music festival attracts goths, metallers and celebrants of alternative lifestyles from across the UK!
View our full list of things to do in Whitby.